November 19, 2013

HPC Quiz: How Do Your SC Credentials Stack Up?

Andrew Jones

How do your SC skills stack up? Take this quiz and share the results with its author, Andrew Jones, aka @HPCnotes on Twitter or (maybe not) with your boss…

Q1. Your boss asks you “what is this SC thing then”? Do you:

a)       Panic and remain mute, hoping they just approve the trip.

b)      Launch into a high speed discourse about how wonderful SC is, all the technical content, everyone who is anyone will be there, and list all the great papers you are looking forward to and the tutorials and workshops … and slowly realize they stopped listening 15 minutes ago.

c)       Declare that SC is “the annual HPC event” and it would be simply unthinkable if you weren’t there. Seriously, the whole of the community is expecting you to be there. The benefits are just too obvious to explain. You have to be there. How could such an important HPC person not be at SC?

d)      Explain that the sheer scale of SC means the opportunities to promote your organization, network, pick up technical knowledge, recruit, and discover business/collaboration opportunities won’t be better anywhere else.

Q2. Your funding agency has bought into your vision far more than you bargained for – and tells you that you now have $100m to spend on HPC (hardware only) within 3 months. Do you:

a)       Panic, delete the email, change your phone number and spend SC hiding from vendors.

b)      Spend SC meeting every possible combination of vendors and partners to spend the money on the best supercomputer you can get.

c)       Rub your hands with glee at the thought of all the vendors being super-super-nice to you at SC.

d)      Politely decline the money unless it can be used against a balance of hardware, software, people, power bills, etc.

Q3. You are walking the exhibit halls of SC13, trying to kill time between meetings. Are you:

a)       Panicking, sliding along, eyes on the floor, hoping no-one will recognize you.

b)      Disgusted by the glitz and marketing that has taken over this technical industry. But ashamedly impressed by some of the booths all the same. Fall into conversation with a booth person until you realize you are late for your meeting.

c)       Strutting across the floor with vigor. Hoping someone will recognize you. Lots of people. Or just anyone really. Please. I’m important. Other people watching need to see me being important.

d)      Walking in a relaxed manner, keeping an eye out for anything interesting on the booths but happy to stop and chat to anyone who recognizes you.

Q4. You are on a panel at SC and are asked a question about a competitor’s news release. Do you:

a)       Panic. Try to avoid answering.

b)      Get really interested in what they have announced and talk about it for several minutes until you realize that you have given them way too much publicity and then try to jam in a comment about your own news.

c)       Dismiss their news with a witty put-down, pausing to make sure everyone laughs. Then take the chance to brag about how you (or your products/services) do a better job anyway.

d)      Highlight the interesting part of the competitor’s news and give them genuine credit. Then explain how it fits into the broader marketplace (without self-advertising).

Q5. The latest Top500 is announced. You had hoped your system would make it into the Top10 but it only appears at number 15. Do you:

a)       Panic. Was it your fault? What could you have done to make the HPL score better?

b)      Explain to those you meet that your system is better balanced than those placed higher and you are really happy with what you have and so are your users and anyway the Top500 is broken and so is HPL and only real applications matter anyway and we’ll have an upgrade soon and their result doesn’t really count because of …

c)       Spend several hours thinking about how to describe your system as “the most powerful supercomputer in [pick a category]”. Shamelessly repeat your newly-invented “leadership” position at every opportunity.

d)      Take the peer comparison data on board, it will be useful for the future. But be happy knowing that you have undertaken a documented process to demonstrate your system does the job it was funded to do.

Q6. It is the week after SC. Do you:

a)       Panic. What were you supposed to have remembered from SC? Who do you need to follow up with? And will anyone ever find out about that thing you did on Tuesday night?

b)      Sift through the brochures you brought back from SC. Spend days scanning the web for background on the interesting bits. Fire off a few emails to get more details. Write up a few notes on the talks you went to and anything else you recall.

c)       Count the business cards you received and count how many you gave out. Give yourself a score. Extra points for every new LinkedIn invite or Twitter follower from people you met at SC. Make sure those back at home know how hard your SC week was. No, all those nice dinners and drinking receptions were just work. And so many meetings. No, they were all important. Yes, because I am important.

d)      Methodically work through your follow-ups. Get your expense claim submitted within two days. Look up hotels and travel options for next year’s SC. Write a short report for your colleagues who could not attend SC.

How did you score?

Mostly (a): Seriously? Why are you even at SC?

Mostly (b): A real HPC techie. The core of SC’s attendance.

Mostly (c): A truly (self)important HPC person. Probably even a supercomputer center director.

Mostly (d): No one is that perfect. Clearly you lied!